Thursday, 21 February 2013

Thought Experiments -- Riddle Me This!

Every time we get a new feature exhibit, I have to create a tour/program around it for classes. Some are absolutely easy. Dinosaurs was a no brainer. Egypt, piece of cake. There was absolutely no way these subjects were not going to connect with kids.

At the moment our feature exhibit is a traveling exhibit from the Canada Science and Technology Museum called Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame. It focuses on 54 people whose outstanding scientific or technological achievements have made a great contribution to society. These are some fascinating people who worked in a wide variety of sciences and areas and have made incredible strides in their field.

But I can imagine to a class of students the exhibit at first will look like a bunch of dead, old people. So how to bring these people and their stories to life? How to inspire students to learn more about them and to realize that there are fascinating opportunities for them to have careers in science and engineering? How to share the stories of these people but to also get kids to think a little more like scientists (and to do all of this in an exhibit of a history museum where they get very worried if I bring up the idea of doing experiments around the artifacts)?

One thing I have always found inspiring about truly brilliant people is their ability to see the world differently, how they are able to problem solve and connect pieces in ways that others can't imagine. As I read about their achievements, I wondered can train your brain to work and solve those sorts of puzzles. And, if so, how?

I was intrigued when I learned that many scientists and innovators have played around with "thought experiments." Thought experiments are a riddle or question that can only be solved with imagination. Probably one of the most famous thought experiments and one which had a profound influence was the one that played a role in Albert Einstein developing the theory of special relativity. When he was 16, Einstein imagined chasing a beam of light and wondered what it would be like to ride on light.

So, interspersed with the biographies of these famous scientists and engineers and the stories of the discoveries, I think I'll have students work on a few thought experiments. Maybe you want to try them for yourself? Try them with your family and friends and see where your mind goes.

Question: What if you had the power of invisibility?


Question: What does the colour red taste like? Smell like?

Question: What would it be like to live for years in space?

Question: What would the world be like if money didn’t exist?

Question: What will the world be like 100 years from now?

Question: If you could make something from the movies real, what would it be?

Question: If you could meet one famous person (living or dead) and ask that person only one question, who would it be and what would be your question?

Question: If you were standing at the magnetic north pole, could you travel in a northerly direction?

Question: What if the world was invented five minutes ago and we all have fake memories of personal and community history?

Question: How do you know everyone else in the world isn’t a computer?

Question: How do you know you’re not dreaming right now? Or that you do not only exist as part of someone else’s dream?

Question: Say there's a ship made of 100 wooden planks. You take off plank #1, then replace it with a new plank. You do the same for all the planks, one by one. Is it still the "same ship" as the one you started out with? (More complex variant: while you're doing this, you also use the original planks and build them into a ship. Is that ship the "same" as the original one? It doesn't seem like both ships could be the same as the original ship, because that would mean that two ships are one ship!)

Question: Can God create a rock so heavy that God cannot lift it?"

Question: If you are the king/queen of a country would you rather be loved or feared?

Question: What would the world look like to a 2D person?

Question: Is anything completely impossible?

[This activity was inspired by Exploration #57 from the book How To Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith.]

Friday, 15 February 2013

Family Fun and Family History

Hope everyone has a fabulous Family Day long weekend.

Thought we would share some photographs of families and family fun from bygone days. And remind you that we're having Family History Day on Family Day (Monday, February 18) from 1 pm to 5 pm. Hope to see lots of you there.



James Dodge family shortly after arriving in Lethbridge in front of the train station. 1913. Galt Archives 19841022000


At the entrance to the Little Wonder Coal Mine, 1908-1923. Galt Archives 19881042016


Waterskiing on Henderson Lake, 1958. Galt Archives 19753500044

Fishing and canoeing on Henderson Lake, 1970. Galt Archives 19760219018


The skating rink at Lions Playground, 1951. Galt Archives 19851047006

Centennial Band Concert at Nicholas Sheran Park, 1985. Galt Archives 199310641340

Charles Magrath family, 1904. Galt Archives 19841008003.


Three unidentified young boys during the Great Depression, 1930s. Galt Archives 19752990123


Two unidentified children playing with a wagon, 1930s. Galt Archives 19752902006


Takeyasu Family, 1943. Galt Archives 19790284003


Thursday, 7 February 2013

Happy 100th Galbraith School

 Galbraith School is 100. The school is hosting an open house on Friday, February 8 from 1 pm to 3 pm with displays, live music and tours of the building. Open to the public. Reminisce, learn the history of the school and more.

In honour of the Centennial, here's a few pictures from Galbraith's past, starting with one of Dr. Galbraith, the school's namesake. Hope to see lots of people at the event.

Dr. Walter Stuart Galbraith on the steps of the Galt Hospital. Galt Archives 19760225003




Galbraith School, 1914. Galt Archives 19730033000
Galbraith School Football Team, 1924. Galt Archives 19754357000


Galbraith Staff, 1946. From let to right:  Ethel Hawthorne, Bessie McCully, Marjorie Brown, Alice Gate, Clarence Larson (Principal), Mabel Luco, Marjorie Horn, Erla Sanderson (nee Keays) Galt Archives 19941011010

Galbraith Home and School Association in the 1950 Parade. Galt Archives 19752303016.


Ethel E. Hawthorne's Grade 2 class photo, 1952. Photo includes:  Irene Bryce, Janie Buchan, Fay Brandle, George Hunter, Dan Service, Harold Wong, Dorothy Gooder, Richard Prestwich, Ki Yip, Marion Cooper, Anthony Afaganis, Barbara Short, Donna Dudley, Gail Fremstad (names not in order of photo)

Presentation from Mrs. Matilda Galbraith of the silver trowel used to set the cornerstone of Galbraith School to Jim Clark at the Galbraith 50th Anniversary celebrations. Galt Archives 19752314255.

50th Anniversary Ceremonies with Matilda Galbraith, Jean Galbraith, Jessie Watson and George Watson. Galt Archives 19871034035.
Assembly at Galbraith School during anniversary celebrations. Galt Archives 19752314252.


Group of teachers and students posed at the Galbraith 50th Anniversary  Celebrations. Galt Archives 19752314261


Group of teachers holding a photograph of a football team at the Galbraith 50th Anniversary Celebrations. Galt Archives 19752314262

Galbraith School Staff 1968-1969. Galt Archives 20021003001.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Why is the bridge black?

Lethbridge's High Level Bridge after snow, January 2013, photo by Belinda Crowson

Last week, on a break between classes, I had the Ipad with me in the Galt Viewing Gallery and was able to snap this photograph through the window. I often talk about this scene but don't usually have a photograph to highlight the answer.

Why is the High Level Bridge black? This is a question I pose virtually every week (and often several times a week) to the 1000+ grade 3 students who come every year for our Building Bridges school program. 

I have heard some incredible whoppers over the years for why the bridge is black. It looks better that way. You can tell from the old photographs that they only had black and white paint. It was a coal mining town and they knew it was going to get dirty anyways so they painted it black so the dirt wouldn't show. Black paint was cheapest.

Black gets hot and melts snow. I took this photograph just after the snow quit falling (before it quit falling you couldn't see the bridge from the Viewing Gallery to my consternation as I tried to get a class to imagine the bridge that was out there). The coulees are covered with snow. Yet there's no snow on the bridge. The black paint melts the snow and with all of the angles of the bridge, the snow slides off. It's a way to use science to remove the weight of the snow from the bridge.

If you'd like another stumper, how many triangles are in the bridge? I don't honestly know the answer to this one but I always tease the grade 3 classes that if they are ever really bad their teacher can make them come back and count the number of triangles. Honestly I hope that never happens because I would have to then also count them to see whether or not they were right. Or make up the answer. Hmmm?   

Construction of the High Level Bridge Galt Archives 19738126000

Construction of the High Level Bridge Galt Archives 19760234021